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Where is Isuzu's Ford Ranger Raptor-fighting flagship D-Max?

A hardcore D-Max would need more visual differentiation, as well as a lift in off-road performance.

Isuzu Ute Australia is studying the potential for a hardcore all-new D-Max ute that could take on the Ford Ranger Raptor and Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior head on.

Though the new third-generation D-Max scores the new X-Terrain variant at the top of the tree, priced at $62,900 before on-road costs, it competes more directly against other visually enhanced ‘lifestyle’ utes such as the Ranger Wildtrak, Toyota HiLux Rogue and Navara N-Trek.

Speaking to journalists, Isuzu Ute Australia director of sales Koichiro Yoshida said the brand will monitor the market and gauge appetite for a more hardcore D-Max.

“I think for the time being, we first of all need to see how the market reacts and, according to the demand of the market, then we can consider (a new flagship ute),” he said.

“We see competitors have Warrior and Raptor, and some customers really like those vehicles, and we will keep monitoring that demand.

“We are also studying if that kind of vehicle is really appreciated by the market or not, so yes, we are having that study internally, but at this moment, still no clear plan to introduce such model.”

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It’s no secret that the over-$60,000 4x4 dual-cab ute segment is growing in Australia, accounting for 22 per cent of the overall ute market at last count.

In fact, around 20 per cent of Ford’s Ranger sales are in variants costing over $60,000, while Toyota counts almost half its HiLux sales in the SR5 grade (priced from $50,740 before on-road costs) and up.

As such it makes sense for Isuzu to make a play for the lifestyle market with its new X-Terrain, which features a unique look thanks to an aero sports bar, dark-grey exterior accents, 18-inch wheels and leather-accented interior.

However, whether customers would spend over the $62,900 asking price of the X-Terrain for a more hardcore ute is still unknown.

Isuzu would not be drawn on exactly what that could look like either, and declined to answer questions on whether it would be developed in-house or outsourced to a local company like Premcar (as Nissan does with its N-Trek Warrior).

Regardless, for a hardcore D-Max to compete, it would need at least upgrades to its off-road ability to keep up with likes of the Ranger Raptor, which sports rally-bred Fox shocks.

More visual flair would also need to be applied to the X-Terrain, with perhaps a factory fitment of a bulbar/nudge bar, light bar, lift kit, and all-terrain wheels and tyres.

Powering all versions of the new D-Max is a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel outputting 140kW/450Nm, which are close to the current Ranger Raptor’s 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel, but a lift in performance would certainly shine the spotlight on Isuzu.

Pricing would also need to be lifted, but even if a hardcore D-Max hit showrooms priced around $75,000, it would still undercut the $77,190 Raptor, though it would also sit above the $62,490 HiLux Rugged X and $63,790 Navara N-Trek Warrior.